The Jimmy Graham signing has been polarizing among fans, to say the least.
In a vacuum, Graham represents an improvement from what the Bears had at tight end last year. But the deal wasn’t signed in a vacuum. And because the contract isn’t as team-friendly as it could be for a team pressed for cap space (and was given to a player who appears to be on the decline), it’s become easy to rally against the signing. But it is what it is at this point. Graham is a member of the Chicago Bears on a one-year deal that includes $9 million guaranteed. And for what it’s worth, Graham wants to do everything in his power to prove he was worthy of such a contract.
Graham did a conference call with Bears reporters, and these snippets stood out to me:
Jimmy Graham: "If I didn't think that I had the ability to dominate in this league, then I wouldn't play anymore. But I still believe that I have that ability. … I'm going to give (the Bears) everything I got."
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) March 26, 2020
"This is an opportunity to prove myself. This is a chance to show everyone what I can do and prove myself. This opportunity is everything for me and I take it serious." – #Bears TE Jimmy Graham.
— Zack Pearson (@Zack_Pearson) March 26, 2020
Jimmy Graham says getting cut by the Packers "lit a fire." Adds, at 33: "I know what player I am and I know what I can do."
— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) March 26, 2020
Graham has asked for tape of every tight end target the Bears have had over the last two years. Wants to implement what he's good at it. @WBBMNewsradio
— Jeff Joniak (@JeffJoniak) March 26, 2020
— Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) March 26, 2020
Through this lens, you can almost see what Bears GM Ryan Pace saw in Graham when he threw down an offer for the free agent tight end. I can imagine it was easy for Pace to envision a motivated Graham pull it all together and have a turn-back-the-clock season one year after being cut for the first time as a professional. Hey, it’s not crazy. Bounce-back years happen all the time, even ones that are the least expected.
And if he is healthier than he’s been in the last few years, then discussing a rebound year isn’t just crazy talk:
Jimmy Graham: "My knee is the best it’s felt in 4 or 5 years. This is the best that I’ve ran, the fastest I’ve been in 4 or 5 years."
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) March 26, 2020
In the end, Graham comes off as easy to root for after hearing how he sets out to approach the season. And when the lights go on in September – or whenever football season starts – Bears fans are going to do just that. Because as Jerry Seinfeld once referenced, we’re all just rooting for the clothes.